One special day (thanks to my kids)

It’s been a difficult couple of days.  Hadn’t spoken to mom in about a week or so.  She had been in the hospital for about ten days and she hasn’t had any energies to be able to talk over the phone.  (If this is the 1st post of mine you read, my mom was diagnosed with Lung Cancer two months ago). And so yesterday I finally did.  Yesterday she finally got to go home. Yesterday I was finally able to hear her voice. My heart literally broke into pieces. She was barely able to say three words on the phone.  Her voice sounded like she would barely make it through the day. It was then when I decided I needed to be home (El Salvador) no matter what. We teachers worry about so much in our classrooms.  So many little details that go into each lesson. Falling behind in the curriculum, activities that can’t be done by a sub. Thinking about having to ask people favor after favor. The stress that comes with the planning that needs to be left in place for our absences is so stressful.  But, I need to get over it. I need to be ok with the fact that right now all that matters is being home.

And so today, I was on my phone every second.  Kids, they notice everything. One girl asked me today, “Ms.  why are you on the phone so much?” I felt so guilty, she had all the right to ask.  I was half present and half absent. She had all the right to ask. They know my mom is sick, so I didn’t doubt  for a second to be honest. And so I told them “Sorry, I know this is not usual of me, but my mom is sick, really sick.”  My eyes immediately filled with tears (which these days is not unusual. I’m a mess trying to keep it together). I had never though cried like this infront of my kids.  They had never seen me, and probably no other teacher, cry like I did today. So genuinely, so humanly. Their faces dropped. Some were so shaken, I could tell they didn’t know what to do.  But as I tried to act normal again, resume the class, one by one they came up to me, gave me a hug, brought tissues and genuinely showed empathy. It was one of those moments were it’s ok for the curriculum to go out the window.  Luckliy it was 10 minutes until their Spanish class. So I dropped them there, headed to my Grade Level team meeting, trying my best to act as if nothing had happened. The day went on, picked my kids up from recess and as I came back to class with them, I got to my desk.  There on my desk were a few pictures from the student I would’ve least expected. He had given me some of the drawings he had been working on during Quiet Time with a post it note that said “Ms. I’m sorry for what’s happening with your mom.”. The rest of the day was kids writing little notes to surprise me with.

Today, even though it has been a difficult day, it was one of the best days of this school year.  Nothing can replace the human connection I had with my students. At first I felt weird, weird to have been so personal and open with them. I felt guilty,  guilty for not have given them my undivided attention. But I also felt loved, loved by my students. I also felt cared for and understood by them (which doesn’t happen very often).  Today, amid of all the sadness and the pain, there was also so much love and kindness. It was a good day.

Advertisements

I chose to be GRATEFUL.

There’s no arguing, teaching is a DIFFICULT job.  It’s not only difficult, sometimes it feels unattainable and draining.  But teaching is also rewarding and fulfilling. The problem is the latter gets blurry or forgotten amongst all our frustrations and never ending lists of things to do, goals to achieve, battles to fight.   This never ending list of battles and frustrations usually get in the way of our ability to notice the positive.

I realize that we teachers are often times kings and queens of complaining.  We work so hard to get everything right, we have such high expectations from students, parents, administration, colleagues and ourselves.   We advocate for our kids with so much passion that in the midst of all we forget that our days bring as much difficulties as they bring opportunities, and so we COMPLAIN and COMPLAIN (don’t get me wrong, we have the right to, and often times we are also right about our complains).   But once in a blue moon, something happens that makes me take a step back from everything that is going wrong, and I try my best to be grateful for the little things. I’ve realized that when it comes to being able to find appreciation, it’s all about perspective, and it’s all about where you are coming from.  

Tuesdays are days in which students leave early (2:45pm) and teachers stay for PD until 4:30pm.  Often times, these PD days are not very welcomed by teachers because of all the little things we need to do.  We have to grade student work, give feedback to students, answer or write emails, plan for the week or next day, create teaching materials (slides, games, small group instruction activities), and the list goes on and on.  And so, when they tell us our “free time” is being taken up by more meetings, our minds can’t help but complain.

But yesterday, was a different Tuesday.  I was determined to tackle the afternoon with an open mind.  I won’t lie, at first I was skeptical. The session was intended to give us an outlet to express a challenge we were facing in class and hopefully get ideas on how we can work towards solving it.  At first I did the usual. I silently complained in my mind. I knew what the problem was, I have literally tried everything in my hands to solve it. What else could I try. But as the session progressed, we got to the sharing part.  We would meet with different teachers, share our struggle and then give feedback to each other as to what has worked for us. I was so pleasantly surprised. After sharing with the first teacher I felt a sense of empowerment and validation.  First, I am not the only one with the same struggle and second, I have clearly more strategies to try. The session ended, and I left feeling different. I left school feeling GRATEFUL. GRATEFUL that I am working at a school that tries to support their teachers (even if we sometimes can’t see this).  GRATEFUL that the school was open to listening to our struggles and trying to actively find ways to help us be proactive with our complains. There was a lot of complaining in that room, but there was also a lot of support. There was this space were even if we are allowed to complain, we were encouraged to seek solutions and answers to our questions.  

And so yesterday, I chose NOT to complain.  I chose to focus on the positive, I chose to feel GRATEFUL.  GRATEFUL for the school’s good intentions in attempting to hear us and support us, teachers.  I felt GRATEFUL to be working at a school that far from being perfect still tries to help teachers grow.  They might not be able to solve all our problems, and it might sometimes feel like they are adding to our plate.  But I am choosing to look at the bright side. I am choosing to be GRATEFUL.

(The best part was, I started my day today trying out one of the strategies a colleague shared, and it was a success.  Baby steps though, who knows how long that success will last. I guess I just need to keep on trying.)

“Recordar es Vivir. Y yo quiero vivir mil veces.”

The struggle is real.  I have found myself every night struggling. Not to put words down, but rather deciding what I want to write about.  Not sure if it’s because the messy part of life I’m going through, or because maybe I am simply not as good as a writer as I’d like to be, or maybe just because of the fact that English is not my first language and the ideas seem sometimes too plain and simple to share.  But here I am, trying my best to persevere (I need to practice what I preach), to pull through and finish what I started.

As I sit on my couch, staring at my laptop for the last 45 min, reading post over post trying to find some inspiration, remembering I need to try and write stories rather than “band aids”, I stare at a picture that seems to be staring back at me, I think I found some inspiration.   

“Recordar es vivir.  Y yo quiero vivir mil veces” (Translated to English:  Remembering is living. And I want to live a thousand times).  

It definitely does not sound so poetic when translated literally to english.  But this quote is one that tells a little bit about who I am. I am that one person people sometimes find annoying.  I love taking pictures of everything and anything. I love taking pictures of moments more than I do things. I am obsessed with capturing every moment, happy ones, sad ones, proud ones, confusing ones.  Many times friends and family get annoyed, they tell me to live the moment. And don’t get me wrong, I do, but it might just be that maybe I feel each moment even more then they do, I feel them so strongly that I don’t want to ever forget the feeling.

When I’m feeling down, all I need to do is find those pictures that remind me about all the fun and happy moments I’ve lived.  These days I look back at the most recent trip I had this Christmas. After probably 20 years, we were able to find some time to travel as a family.   I am feeling angry and sad about not being with my mom as she battles cancer. I feel scared about the fact that who knows how much longer she’ll live.  I feel angry about the fact that there’s so much in my life I won’t get to share with her nor my father (he passed away 2 years ago). And so, I go back to the 1,000 pictures I took while we traveled to Disney this Christmas, and even though I am sad when I think about this possibly being the last trip with her, I then feel an immense gratitude about the fact that it even happened at all.  I can go back and relive every single moment and nobody can take away these memories from me. I will always have the pictures to live those happy moments a thousand times more.

When I’m feeling unsure and scared about where I’m going next in life, all I need to do is find those pictures that remind me about how far I’ve come.  These days I look back at pictures of all the places I’ve been, of all the places I’ve lived. Each of them reminds me of the sense of adventure that has allowed me to evolve and grow.  I feel worried about not having a plan. I feel scared of making the wrong choices. And so, I go back to the 10,000 pictures I took when I was studying abroad in college (Pennsylvania), far away from home (El Salvador).  And I look at the pictures of when I lived in Florence, and when I lived in Madrid and now of me here in Mexico. And I look at these pictures and I remember the fears I had, how scared I was and how amazing everything turned out, despite the ups and downs that came with them.   I relive all of the good and bad moments and it helps me find the peace I need to know that I might not have everything figured out, but it’ll all be ok in the end.

And just like this, when I am feeling so many other things, all I do is look back at pictures, and live again.  Live every moment, remember every feeling (good and bad) and live a thousand times again.

Since Last March,

I borrowed this from Rita Dicarne who borrowed it from Elisabeth Ellington who borrowed it from Fran McVeigh. THANK YOU.

Since Last March, I’ve been recovering from a bad ankle fracture.

  • The fracture that has taught me that only time heals.
  • The fracture that has taught me that things can go wrong when we least expect it, but that with patience we can always bounce back.
  • The fracture that showed me how much easier life can be when we surround ourselves with amazing friends.

Since Last March, I’ve been working on my professional declaration of growth in school.

  • The declaration of growth that I was afraid to pursue.
  • The declaration of growth that has allowed me to reflect and grow both personally and professionally.
  • The declaration of growth that after months of observations and gathering of evidence has allowed me to gain the self-confidence I somehow had lost.

Since Last March, I had the opportunity of having long due family trip (mom, sisters, brothers in laws and niece/nephew).

  • The family trip that happened just before mom was diagnosed with cancer.
  • The family trip that reminded me that life is too short and we must enjoy it with all its ups and downs.
  • The family trip that makes me wish for another one just like it.

Since Last year, I’ve been trying to figure out life

  • The life that has gone by too fast.
  • The life that has been filled with happiness and sadness, blessings and pain.  But the combination of them have made me appreciate it all.
  • The life I am grateful for having.

Choice … it can be a challenge

Is there anybody out there who feels like you never get it right in your class?  I’ve been teaching for 12 years, you’d think I’d feel sort of like an expert in the field.  But every year there’s new research, new ideas, new methodologies, new curriculum, new programs, new everything.  And yes, that’s part of life and that’s how we are supposed to evolve as human beings and as professionals, by embracing change.  But sometimes if feels like everything changes too fast, especially in education.

I moved to fourth grade this year after having taught 3rd grade for 10 years.  I needed a change, I’m glad I asked for it and it happened. Year after year, this idea of flexible seating has been on the rise. The idea behind it, I love.  I do agree every student has different needs and the more we can meet them the better. I also agree that students learn best when they have choice and control over where they sit, how they sit, who they sit with.  But being able to successfully make these choices requires a great deal of responsibility, self awareness and self management. As I embarked on this new grade level I thought it would be the perfect place and time to give flexible seating a go.  I was excited and really looking forward to it. I new I would have to be creative with what I had, but I would do it anyways. My plan was to start slow, baby steps.

My students were coming in being used to sitting on regular desks and most being used to having assigned seating.  That’s how it had been in my class for the last 10 years. Back then, I would regularly change the seating arrangement, I would ask students where they’d like to sit, but in the end it was me who made the final choice.   This would be as big of a change for them as it would be for me. Beginning of the year was as usual. We focused on developing routines and expectations, building relationships and so on. I assigned spots with the hope of having them get to know each other and get a feel of the class. For the first month or so I made sure to regularly assign them different spots.  Once I felt like there was a sense of community and responsibility around learning I introduced the term Flexible Seating and what it meant in my class. We made a list of agreements and expectations. We were ready. Like I said, I had nothing and had to be creative. So I asked for their feedback first to see what they would like in regards to sitting. Some students said they liked working in groups, others working on single desks and others said they liked partnerships.  So I arranged my class into those three types of sitting arrangement. I would then have students write their choices in order of preference and I would try to give them a spot based on their choices. A few weeks later then I introduced a few more choices. Some students said they’d like to work standing up and others not using a chair at all. So I went out shopping and bought some bed risers to raise a few tables and bought some cushions for the low deks.

A few months ago, I thought they were now ready to decide on their own without me intervening.  I was sure they’d be ready to make responsible choices, choices that would elevate their learning.  Everything seemed to be working ok, except that as I gradually allowed them to decide on their own, the complaining and the bargaining every single time I make a request or intervene or ask them for something specific, they are all now experts at complaining and even refusing to do as I ask.  It has turned into a power struggle and into a constant battle. For example if we have read aloud and I ask them to sit on the carpet, they’ll complain. If we have a mini lesson and I ask them to sit together as a class, they complain. If I ask them to turn and talk with a specific partner, they complain.  If I ask them to do a specific activity in the morning meeting, they complain. If I ask them to pick a different spot because they are not able to complete assignments or listen during lessons, they complain and they refuse to follow through with what I ask. I feel drained and exhausted from the constant arguing.  The choices are not at all responsible and are not setting them up for success with their learning, and as I try to intervene and help out the best way I can they seem to undermine me every single time.

I thought I had a plan that worked.  I thought I had carried out the plan successfully.  But I was wrong. And so here I am, trying to figure this out.  I still have three months to go, the most difficult ones and I am tired and frustrated.  I know though, I can’t give up and I need to figure this out. So today I was determined to find a way.  I walked around classrooms, talked to a few teachers. It was then when I came into a colleague’s class and saw a complete different layout in his class.  I moved everything around today. I have bruises on my knees from pushing heavy furniture but I am hoping that Monday, I’ll start all over again. The carpet (which students HATE) is no longer the center of my class.  I don’t blame them, every single teacher in every single lesson asks them to sit on the carpet for the so famous “mini lesson”. And so I hear them, I listen and I’m hoping Monday will be another attempt to figuring out how to make this work.  Wish me luck.

Tacos…

Tacos… a perfect way to end a long day. I’ve been living in Mexico for the last almost three years, and I can never get tired of eating tacos. I thought I knew it all when it comes to Tacos. I was sure I had found THE best taqueria in Monterrey, Taqueria Orinoco. And then I was proven wrong. One random fun night out, I was introduced to what is know oficially the best place for tacos, Tacos Ufff. I can now say for sure, I’ve tried the best tacos. Or so I think. But then I remember, I live in Mexico. That’ll be impossible. Can’t wait for someone to take me to the next best Taqueria. Mexico, thank you for TACOS.

Sunday Stills (on Wednesday)

A special shout out to Dani Burtsfield, who shared her version of Sunday Stills (on a Tuesday).   The idea seems to have stemmed originally from Rachel at Finidng Joy.

My Wednesday has not been easy.  Not at school and not at home, and so I’ll take this time to focus on what I am grateful for.  Here is my version of Sunday Stills (on a Wednesday).

today:  prepping for student led conferences at school, church (ash Wednesday), writing my slice of life while catching up with “Velvet” on Netflix

want to be: at peace with the reality of being far away from family

blessings: having an older sister (we are very different yet at the same time we truly understand each other)

writing: my day 6 slice of life

loving: catching up with tv series on a school night without doing school work

grateful: for co-workers who check in and ask “how are you doing today?”